US 'would not walk away from the Middle East,' Joe Biden tells GCC+3

The US president also said he would not allow China, Russia or Iran to fill a vacuum in the region

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The US "would not walk away" from the region, President Joe Biden told Middle Eastern leaders at a summit in Jeddah as he admitted to not always getting things right.

The gathering of leaders of the GCC, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq in Jeddah came on the final day of Mr Biden's first tour of the region since taking office.

"No country gets it right all the time, even most of the time, including the United States. But our people are our strength. Our countries with the confidence to learn from the mistakes grow stronger," Mr Biden said.

"So let me conclude by summing all this up in one sentence ― the United States is invested in building a positive future in the region, in partnership with all of you, and the United States is not going anywhere."

Mr Biden was eager to see Saudi Arabia and its Opec partners pump more oil to help bring down the high cost of gasoline and ease the highest US inflation in four decades.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that Saudi Arabia would increase production to 13 million barrels a day from the current limit of 12 million barrels a day by 2027 but said that "after that, the kingdom will not have any more capability to increase production".

He also warned against chasing "unrealistic" energy policies as he called for greater investment in renewable sources as well as oil extraction.

"Adopting unrealistic policies to reduce emissions by excluding main sources of energy will lead in coming years to unprecedented inflation and an increase in energy prices, and rising unemployment and a worsening of serious social and security problems," Prince Mohammed said.

Crown Prince Mohammed also said the historic meeting of regional leaders and the US president came at a challenging time for the world, adding that he hoped "a new era of consolidation" would emerge among the nations at the summit.

Mr Biden looked to assure regional leaders that the US would remain committed to the Middle East.

"The United States is doing to remain an engaged partner in the Middle East. We will not walk away and leave a vacuum filled by China, Russia or Iran," Mr Biden said.

As well as Mr Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed, President Sheikh Mohamed, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim, Kuwait's Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal, Bahrain's Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad, Oman's Sultan Haitham and Yemen's president Rashad Al Alimi all attended the summit.

The threat of Iran also featured heavily in the conversations in the region, especially in the Gulf where they are worried about boosting capability given Tehran's advanced ballistic missile and armed drone capability.

In his first trip to the region since he took office in January 2021, Mr Biden urged leaders to build a framework that included Israel to ensure GCC countries could defend themselves "adequately" with an integrated air defence force. The push would be a tough sell to states without ties with Israel.

"We believe there's great value in including as many of the capabilities in this region as possible and certainly Israel has significant air and missile defence capabilities, as they need to. But we're having these discussion bilaterally with these nations," a senior administration official told reporters.

As well as being the first US president to fly directly from Israel to Saudi Arabia, Mr Biden urged greater integration following the Abraham Accords that saw the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan establish ties with Israel.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday that the president would also "lay out clearly" his vision and strategy for America's engagement in the Middle East when he met on the sidelines with regional leaders.

When they met, Mr Biden also invited President Sheikh Mohamed to visit the US.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates (2nd R) meets with Joe Biden, President of the United States (R), during the Jeddah Security and Development Summit.

Photo by Abdulla Al Neyadi for the Abu Dhabi Presidential Court

“We both understand that the challenges we face today only make it a heck a lot more important that we spend more time together. I want to formally invite you to the States before this year’s out,” Mr Biden told Sheikh Mohamed.

In his meeting with Mr Biden, Mr El Sisi discussed food security and disruptions to energy supplies, the Egyptian presidency said.

Updated: July 16, 2022, 3:00 PM
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